Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Budget Gourmet for the Budget Bachelor: Minute White Rice

Good evening fellow diners. My name is JPK, and I am the new bachelor on the block. For my inaugural Bachelor Diner post, I'm going to wind up and hit you on-a-budget bachelors with my saving-savvy cricket bat.

It is a dark, dark time for the American economy. The greenback is on the steady decline. Gas prices are rising. The cost of a bottle of Sailor Jerry's is steadily rising from $15 to $18 to $20.

Step away from that window sill, bachelor! The key to surviving in these harsh financial times is neither suicide nor alcoholism.

...well, at least not suicide.

The key is healthy, nutritious eating that leaves both your wallet and stomach full at the end of the day. This series of healthy, inexpensive food columns will help you navigate the prologue to the post-apocalypse so that you will be the last one standing when everyone else on your block eats their neighbors for food, blood, and marrow.

The first essential food for any penny saving bachelor is Minute white rice. A low cost alternative to other more expensive rices (I'm looking at you, pilaf), Minute rice is the ultimate bachelor food for two reasons. First, it costs between $2.25 and $4.50 for 14 (7 servings) to 28 ounces (14 servings) worth of rice. Second, it is monkey-easy to prepare. All it requires is an equal serving of water to dry rice. 

Recipe: Minute Rice
1/2 cup of rice
1/2 cup water

microwave 2:30 on High

The trick, bachelors, is to bring a half-cup sized container full of dry Minute rice with you everywhere. For an instant lunch, pour the dry rice into a second serving receptacle and fill the original container with water. It provides you with simple transportation of your lunch that will leave you as satisfied with the lack of cleanup as you will be with your quenched hunger. Garnish your Minute rice with any number of sauces. Feeling like Asian? try low sodium soy sauce (I recommend Kikkoman's). Feel like Indian? try Trader Joe's Yellow Curry sauce. Add some spinach, beans, tomatos, and garlic for some Mexican flair. Add butter for a simple side. Barbeque sauce and Sriracha hot sauce also mix nicely.  

The last benefit of Minute rice is the energy that it provides you with. Riboflavin and glucose are the building block of any bachelor. While Minute rice won't provide you with the energy and stamina required to say, work a whole day at the construction site or spend a whole night lifting weights, it will provide you with a quick, low cost, cheap thrill that will take your hunger out back and give it a firm talking-to.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Frozen Pizza: Tabula Rasa

Sterling, MA

Bonjour en Printemps!

Wonderful days recently, I must say, especially out in the valley. Alas, I am in Sterling. I planted beets, zucchini and cucumbers as an addition to the container tomatoes (2 varieties) we have at home. Now I've got two miniature gardens separated by a sea of trees.

Some NEWZ:
A new collaborator, JPK, the famous one of course, is now going to be spewing all over these pages. JPK's main interests are Stallone and Predator. His secondary interests are alcohol and Star Wars. He's an awful guy, and we're glad to have him.

Here's the newest from the Diner:

I know you are panicking right now. It is dinner time and you're a bachelor/ette, which invariably means you have no food that isn't frozen or moldy. One of the best frozen foods to have on hand at all times for a situation like this is a frozen pizza. The bread of our bachelor generation, frozen pizza is truly a TABLUA RASA - a blank slate. Work your majick, diners, for eating isn't just a bodily activity, but an opportunity to reunite with your hunter-gatherer ancestors who experimented with food on a regular basis. This article is about how I figured out how frozen pizza works.

Frozen pizza on its own ranges from awful and overpriced (ie. Big Y nacho pizza) to pretty good and worth the cost (Trader Joe's Quattttrrrroooo Formaggio or Margherita). I say skip the sucky varieties and invest in some other the latter. They aren't that much more expensive, and the ingredients actually are of a higher quality. Naturally, this improves the overall experience.

Often, one of these TJ's pizzas on its own is sufficient to quell the riotous gut, and this is the most you will probably be able to muster for dinner if having it for lack of other options. However, if the opportunity presents itself in the form of fresher vegetables, or if you need to impress a mate, then I have some suggestions that will improve your station in this respect.

I am not offering a way for you to turn water into wine, but rather water into water with a lemon in it, so don't get your hopes up.

The procedure. Preheat the oven to hot (according to the box). When you throw in the pizza, it will probably be frozen still. If this is the case, you must wait until it has attained defrostment in the oven before adding ANYTHING FRESH. Otherwise, say, for instance, if you add tomatoes or meat at the same time you put the frozen pie in, the fresh-like toppings shall overcrizisp or in other ways worsen. Adding these things after about 2-5 minutes is a good rule of thumb. Remember that many vegetables means soggier pizza, so if you use something like fresh tomatoes, try to remove excess water, or suck on them first before the act of topping.
Also, cook longer than instructed by one-two minutes because your pizza MUST be crispy in the middle, for appropriate crispiness levels are always sought by the Diner.

Basil is a must for many varieties of frozen pizza. Fresh is really the only kind of basil to use, so try keeping a small pot of Basil Genovese (the sweet big-leaf eyetalian type) or whichever cultivar you like best (Thai is great also). Put the basil on when it comes out of the oven, or near the end if you want it a little cooked. It loses flavor when overheated.

Basil is immensley easy to keep if you buy a plant that has sprouted. A plant can be kept in the window of your kitchen if there's room, and plucking leaves when needed ensures that the your plant is a prodigious producer. Needless to say, I am a loudmouthed advocate for this plant.

Remember, you are not an amateur. You are already a Star!

- T Bars.